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Apr 20, 2022

Making quality silage key to offset rising feed prices

Apr 20, 2022

Livestock producers are being urged to take steps to make the best silage possible this season, as purchased feed prices continue to soar.

Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, says that despite a rise in the cost of making silage due to widespread inflation, it still offers exceptionally good value – costing around £36 per tonne to produce – and will be crucial to offset higher feeding costs next winter.

“Making small changes to your silage production process can achieve incremental improvements in silage quality and palatability which offer significant cost benefits on a herd basis,” says Mrs Colahan.

“For example, feeding 1kg dry matter (DM) more silage with a metabolisable energy (ME) content of 11.8MJ/kg DM can replace around 1kg of fresh concentrates per day. Based on a purchased feed price of £300 per tonne, this is worth roughly £60 per cow over an average 200-day winter period.”

When it comes to making the best silage possible, Mrs Colahan highlights the crucial role of crop specific inoculants in maintaining silage quality at feed out.

“Using a crop and condition specific inoculant will help improve nutrient retention and reduce losses in the clamp. This can be seen in the analysis of over 1,900 first cut grass silage samples undertaken by Trouw Nutrition which clearly shows that by using Magniva – crop and condition specific inoculants – higher ME and protein can be achieved in grass silage.”

Table 1 – Average ME and protein levels of untreated and treated with inoculant silage samples

Mrs Colahan adds that the resulting improvement in milk or meat production from forage coupled with reduced reliance on purchased feed, means that a crop specific inoculant offers a very good return on investment (ROI).

“Even a small change in silage quality can make a big difference and if you just obtain an improvement in silage ME of 0.1 MJ/kg DM, based on 1,000 tonnes of 30% DM grass

silage, 5,454.45  litres of additional milk could be produced. If you’re getting paid 34 pence/litre, this is worth over £1,850. Taking into consideration the cost of treating 1,000 tonnes of silage with a Magniva inoculant, this leaves a net gain of over £600 alone just for the improvement in ME1.”

Beyond this, she says there is also the value of an uplift in protein to consider. “Improving the protein content of the silage will permit a reduction in the level of additional purchased protein sources such as rape seed meal. With rape seed costing around £410/tonne, even small reductions in its usage bring about significant cost savings.”

In addition to using a crop and condition specific inoculant, Mrs Colahan says that optimum cutting times – guided by pre-cut testing – alongside best practice during harvest and ensiling are all fundamental when looking to make the best silage possible.

Farmers can gain more practical tips and expert guidance to improve silage quality in Lallemand’s new FORWARD with Fibre guide

Click here to get your copy of the forward with fibre booklet